(Another story of things happening in threes)
In Kinsley there used to be a really neat drug store that was run by Joe Hamm and Ralph Pool. Joe’s name was a perfect fit, because he was always trying to stir up some trouble and was the clown of the pair.
Ralph was the laid back partner, he would just sit back and enjoy all the crazy tricks that Joe pulled, but I always suspected that he was silent but deadly. When Ralph pulled something on someone they never suspected he had been behind the trick.
When I worked in a beauty salon in Kinsley my boss and I would go down to Hamm and Pool Drug Store for a coke and to visit with Joe and Ralph. The drug store had one of the few remaining soda fountains in the area and it was the place to meet and gossip.
The drug store sat on the west side of the street facing east and the front was all windows. It was about 30 feet wide and ran all the way back to the alley. On the south wall and covering almost half the wall sat the soda fountain with a long counter that had short round stools and three stools on the ends to form a [ ] shape. The fountain counter ran from half way down that wall all the way to the back of the building.
At the back of the south wall and just past the counter was a door that opened onto a small parking lot that was adjacent to the alley. In the Northwest corner of the store and on a raised floor was the pharmacy and the rest of the building had all kinds of items to buy from aspirin to gift items.
Every morning there was a bunch of men, most of them farmers, that came in to have coffee and talk. The conversation ran the normal course with the main topic always being the weather and whether the wheat or the beef prices were going to stay up.
One old man always came in the side door to the soda fountain and he always sat on the same round stool at the end of the counter by the door. He had a very strange personality and could be spooked easily.
Once he had his coffee and had taken a few sips he became the target of Joe and his tricks. The old man knew it was going to happen but he still came each day for his morning cup of coffee.
Joe would saunter over to the fountain from the pharmacy and once he was behind the counter would ask if they had heard about a certain person who had passed away over night.
Then the conversation would center on the person that had passed away. The old man on the end stool immediately started to squirm and drink his coffee a little bit faster. He would glance nervously out of the corner of his eye at Joe and the other coffee drinkers as he waited for the other shoe to fall.
Joe would finally say; you know he or she was the first one to die. Then the old farmer would relax. Or Joe would say; well you know he or she was the second one to die that week. (The old farmer was a firm believer in the theory that deaths come in threes.)
So when Joe mentioned that the person who had passed away was the second one the old farmer would bolt off the stool and race out the side door. He would run to his old beat up pickup and race out of the parking lot and probably all the way back to his farm a few miles out of town.
The second he bolted off the stool Joe would burst into laughter and was quickly joined by all the other coffee drinkers. Ralph, who was standing in the pharmacy, was enjoying every minute of the torture that Joe was dealing the old farmer.
One day a blizzard blew into Kinsley and the electricity went out all over town around noon so my boss and I decided to go down to the soda fountain and see if it was still possible to get a coke. We drove down to the drug store and when we walked in the coffee bunch was there.
The only missing person was the old man, but shortly after we got our cokes the old man blew in the side door with snow flying all around him and all over the floor.
The old man shook the snow off his coat and quickly took his normal position at the end of the counter. That day it was Ralph who was behind the counter and he started to pick on the old man the second he began to drink his coffee.
Ralph mentioned that a person had died the night before and then a few seconds later that they were number two. I don’t think the old man had taken more than a couple sips of his hot coffee as he tried to warm up from the blizzard but he immediately bounded off the stool and raced out of the drug store and headed home. I guess he thought if he wasn’t in town he would be safe and he wouldn’t be number three.
As we sat there drinking our cokes my boss told the remaining group that since he couldn’t work in the salon that afternoon, because the power was out, he was going to go home, make some hot chocolate, turn on the electric blanket, crawl into bed and watch TV.
Joe and Ralph both jumped on that statement immediately. Almost in unison they said, “ Sure……you are going to go home and turn on the electric blanket and get into bed and watch TV.” Then my boss realized what he had said and we all had a good laugh at his expense.
From then on Ralph would tease my boss about trying to turn on an electric blanket and watch TV without electricity every time we went into the fountain for a coke. Sometimes it was the quiet one at Hamm and Pool Drug Store that would zing you when you least expected it. To contact Sandy: [email protected]